Alfresco fever has reached epidemic proportions this summer, and there's scarcely a restaurant where you can't dine outside. Still, some places are better than others. Besides Twin Lakes' Mangiamo! (left), here are a few other spots we favor for catching a breeze:
On the East Side, the shady sidewalk tables in front of Fire Food & Drink (13220 Shaker Square, 216-921-3473) are always a top pick, not only for the people-watching, but also for chef-owner Doug Katz's fine contemporary fare -- anything from a gourmet cheeseburger to dainty spring-pea ravioli. Staffers have been taking a brief break this week, so look for Fire to reopen on Friday, July 6.
Just across the square, check out Saravá (13225 Shaker Square, 216-295-1200), where some of the city's best musicians perform samba, bossa nova, and jazz classics on the 100-seat patio. The sassy multicultural menu takes a decidedly Brazilian twist, with dishes like beef picanha, shrimp baiana, and rich feijoada. If the weather turns rainy, head for Nighttown (12387 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550), the nationally known jazz club and restaurant, where the indoor-outdoor Stephen's Green offers a year-round retreat. To eat, options range from halloumi kebabs to Dublin Lawyer, the house specialty -- a creamy mélange of lobster, mushrooms, and Irish whiskey over rice pilaf.
On the West Side, in Tremont, try the garden at Lucky's Café (777 Starkweather Avenue, 216-622-7773). Filled with flowers, vegetable plants, and picnic tables, it's a charming setting for chef-owner Heather Haviland's pastries, sandwiches, and hearty Sunday brunches. Nearby, Lolita's (900 Literary Road, 216-771-5652) secluded patio makes a shady backdrop to chef-owner Michael Symon's menu of earthy delights -- anything from house-cured meats and artisanal cheeses to Kobe burgers and his famous mac 'n' cheese.
In Ohio City, Momocho's (1835 Fulton Road, 216-694-2122) outdoor-dining area is a lively spot, just right for sipping some top-shelf tequila and scooping up blue-crab guacamole.
Downtown, the resurgent East Fourth Street district has become one big urban patio for guests of Pickwick & Frolic (216-241-7425), House of Blues (216-523-2583), and the 4th Street Bar & Grill (216-298-4070).
Want more? Check out Scene's online restaurant guide (www.clevescene.com) with details on 173 area alfresco alternatives.